Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chickens, y'all.

Moving day is Saturday! And though we had planned on waiting awhile on chickens, we got a steal of a deal on craigslist - chicken pen, brooder for chicks, and gravity feed waterer - and went ahead with it.

So with the chicken house came the most important question - what breed(s) to get? We would like to have both a small laying flock and to raise meat birds. While we could go the route of getting two breeds - one laying breed and one meat breed - we'd rather keep it small and simple with just one breed. We also knew we didn't want to go the industrial broiler route - the current standard meat breed is the Cornish Cross, a very sad breed that grows quickly but has many health issues due to its fast growth.

While talking to my friend Brittany, who has her own little backyard chicken setup, I was reminded of a chicken breed that I was very interested in a couple years back, way before I could actually
start my own flock. Dominiques are a great dual purpose breed and are one of America's first breeds. Early American colonists used these chickens for their eggs and for their meat. Several top breed benefits are:

-- Gentle and docile
-- Good mother
-- Good foragers - can "eat their living" from pasture
-- Good layers
-- Good meat, though smaller breasted than industrial chicken breeds

Plus they are just so darn pretty. They also have an interesting breed history, dating back to when America was just a British colony.

It also just so happens that a hatchery in middle Tennessee sells Dominique chicks, as well as many other rare and heritage breeds. Hopefully we can get set up to get some chicks in the next few months - the tentative plan is to raise a small batch (5-10) of meat birds and a small starter flock of laying hens. Plus maybe a rooster, so we can raise our own chicks!

And wouldn't you know it - the folks we bought our chicken equipment from have processing equipment and have generously offered to help when we are ready to process the meat birds. It's amazing how God provides when we aren't even looking for it. And the helpfulness of like-minded farmers really never fails to impress me.

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